The Copycat Killers(2)

By: Paula Millhouse


She scanned the reception room, looking for her grandchildren. Everyone milled around dressed in various fashions of black. Some eating. Some whispering. Some pointing. The cloying aroma of funeral flowers filled her nose, threatening to choke her to death.

The traditions were for show, for his children. She planned to mourn in private, her loss unfathomable. Fifteen bodies had been accounted for by federal agents at the time of the wake, and they weren’t finish sifting through Paulie’s debris.

The only thing that prevented her from going to prison herself was a deal she’d struck with the FBI. She hadn’t known her son was a killer—that he’d learned his wicked ways from his own father, until she’d stumbled upon written evidence. She’d turned everything over to the authorities at Tony’s insistence. By that act alone her nephew had saved her life, protected her business, and kept her place in the Families secure.

The mourners jostled to catch sight of the Marinos. A few petitioned to speak a word or two to slide into her good graces, like bottom feeders. None of them had a clue. Hatred toward the entire affair nestled in her bones. She held zero patience for the vultures who offered sympathy a la carte.

She used her favorite red wine to dim the dark curtain of reality she faced. Betrayed by my own flesh-and-blood. Should I feel guilt, Father? Paulie placed me in this position. I’ll never forgive him. All those people he tortured and killed, on my own property, in my guesthouse…

Miss Aida’s vision blurred, and she focused in on Tia and Jimmy secluded in a dark corner of the house. They whispered with a wild-eyed man, Frankie Camarreri, the brother of one of Tony Aiello’s crew who died on the scene with Paulie. She scrubbed her eyes. That little bitch wasted no time drawing in the filth of the Earth.

Tia would drag her brother down with her. If she didn’t watch them, she feared the duo may morph into a two-headed monster that consumed her nightmares.

Anger flared. She crossed her arms. Distress flooded her voice. “Who the hell let that low-life, wanna-be goon in my house? Michael? Michael!”

Heads turned.

Her assistant appeared, a question in his eyes, his shoulders squared. He leaned in beside her and followed her line of site. “Tell me what you want, Love.”

She nodded toward Frankie and hissed into his ear. “Take that trash out of my house this instant. And let our other guests know it’s time to wrap this event up. I’m exhausted.”

He stood to attention. “Yes, of course. At once.”

Miss Aida made her goodbyes to the important people in the room and stalked into the kitchen to wait for Michael.





2





EVIE LONGFELLOW STRODE into the Bradford, Vermont post office after stomping snow from her boots. Mid-December’s wintry weather had made its first appearance in the Northeast, so she tried to cope with its nuances. As a native to Savannah, Georgia, adapting to a real New England winter took some creativity and determination.

She smiled up at Matthew, the Postmaster. He had her mail boxed up and waiting, and the latest southern euphemism on his tongue which she had to explain in trade for her packages. It was a game they started playing soon after she took up residence in Bradford, with Nick Franklin, the love of her life.

She brushed a strand of dyed brunette hair out of her eyes and tucked it up under the hand-knitted wool hat that Meg, her sister-in-law-to-be, had insisted she wear to keep warm.

“Okay, Miss Angelina Franklin. Explain this one: ‘Fixin’ to get ready?’” Matthew laughed, sporting a twinkle in his eye.

Evie rolled her eyes. He loved to hear her talk, hung on her southern accent like a besotted young lover, but Matthew didn’t want her, he wanted her words.

She still wasn’t used to the pseudonym she’d assumed for her own protection—something the FBI agreed to—everyone here knew her as Angelina Franklin. It was so much more than a pen name. She’d decided to take on an entirely new identity after she became the only girl who’d gotten away from a psychotic mobster back in October.

She recovered, tossed Matthew an index finger, and shrugged her shoulders at the expression’s simplicity. “Oh, that one’s easy. You see, it takes a while down-south to motivate yourself to do anything in all that heat. You know how we like to go on-and-on about stuff, right? It’s like this—I’m fixin’ to get ready to go to town and get my mail. Means I’m considering it, is all.”

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